[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers!]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Thanks to the actions of Bruce Wayne on the jury for the trial of Mr. Freeze, the criminal is now free! Bruce is back at Wayne Manor working overtime in the batcave trying to find the true culprit. However there is something wrong with Bruce–and it’s only a matter of time before it shows itself.
King really pulls at your emotions with this particular issue, and the way it starts is probably the most brutal. Immediately as the story starts we’re taken back to the night Dick Grayson, also known as Nightwing lost parents at the circus. We hear the commentary of a shocked crowd and realize that Dick has just witnessed the entire act. King uses this very beginning to show a direct link to how broken Dick was after the loss–and just how broken Bruce is now. After the failed wedding between Bruce and Selina, Bruce hasn’t shown any sadness, anger, or real emotion behind it. It’s this very thing that drives Dick to keep asking Bruce to open up and talk about things. Throughout the book, Bruce turns down every opportunity, until through a minor instance while working on the Freeze case he breaks down–in the middle of laughing at a joke. I believe King did this justly merely to show us how damaged he really is. Something as simple as letting down his guard for a brief second of laughter–automatically led to sadness. Towards the end of the issue we see Dick as shoulder to lean on for Bruce reminding him that if he ever needs to talk about it all, he’s always available.
Although the action is minimal in this issue, its the emotional weight that really drives this book home for me. King does a wonderful job of mixing past and present and showing how Dick has grown to the man he is now, and how in a way he also helped fix Bruce in the early years as well. King shows us a kid Dick Grayson as mean, rude, and angry at the world because he lost his parents. Rather than disregard the youth, Bruce instead mentored him and shared his losses to Dick as well. When we are shown in the present day, it’s Bruce who has the anger and Dick who’s trying to get him to talk about it. The growth and impact that Bruce has had on Dick’s life was immense–and it was shown well in this book.
Overall Batman #54 is an enjoyable read. Although we don’t have any real follow ups shown to the Freeze case in this issue, I did want to know how Bruce was actually coping with the wedding to Selina ending how it did. The last few issues we saw Bruce immediately going back to work as Batman, without merely a thought or comment as to what happened, so when we finally see Batman break down while working on case, especially during a joke–to me it says a lot about where he is mentally right now. Everyone needs someone to talk to about their problems sometimes, apparently even Batman.